Fitness trackers have changed the way we train. From connected tennis rackets, baseball bats and golf clubs, sensors are also changing the way we approach sports.
Basketball is no exception with products like the 94Fifty smart basketball, the Basketball Replay Analyzer and the ShotTracker sensor. Wilson, a traditional brand name, has now joined the party with the Wilson X Connected basketball – the ball that tracks your shooting statistics to help your improve your game.
“Since 2005, there’s been a lot of demand for sensors in balls across sports. We wanted to reach the masses with our ball.” said Bob Thurman, Head of Wilson Labs and the company’s ‘VP of Innovation’.
You would not realise there is anything different about this basketball just by looking at it. It is regulation size and weight with Wilson quality grip and durability. You can choose from one of two sizes: official (29.5 inches) or intermediate (28.5 inches). There are no wires, add-ons to attach to the hoop or wearables to strap on your wrist.
Below the surface the ball contains a Bluetooth radio, low-power processor, and three-axis accelerometer, which with the help of some cleverly crafted algorithms track your baskets. Wilson says the algorithm is 98% accurate on makes and misses.
The Connected Basketball is a shooter’s ball and is designed specifically to help players improve their short, mid-range and long-range shooting. The ball is not designed to track layups, dunks or other shots less than 7 feet. Also it will not track any shots where the ball doesn’t hit the ground after going through the hoop.
The first time you use the ball, you’ll need to connect it with your phone, so it recognizes it. Make sure your Bluetooth is on. Then open the Wilson X app. It will guide you through the connection process by telling you to spin the ball aggressively 10 feet in the air and selecting your ball from the available ball list. After a successful connection, a red basketball icon will appear on your screen. The ball goes into hibernation mode after a few minutes of inactivity. So you do need reconnect it to “wake it” from hibernation mode, which the ball employs to save power between shooting sessions.
Although you can use it in a game, the ball is designed to track a single player’s shots. After all, the ball can’t tell when it has changed possession. This is why Wilson recommends to use the ball and app during solo training sessions only.
In practice, you can choose from one of four game modes. Buzzer Beater, Free Throw, Free Range and Game Time. With Buzzer Beater, the aim is to make the shot under pressure as the clock counts down. Free Throw sees how well you can shoot from the line, Free Range lets you shoot anywhere from the court while Game Time provides you with a real game simulation. The smartphone app even throws in crowd noise and sports commentator observations.
The ball syncs via Bluetooth to the smartphone app, which dishes out charts and graphs on your shooting statistics such as shooting percentages, shot attempts and total time in play. You can even head over to the Wilson website to view global leaderboards for each of the four game modes.
The ball doesn’t require charging. Its battery runs strong for over 100,000 shots – that’s 300 shots a day for a year. After that you can continue on using it as a regular ball, or perhaps trade it in.
“We will celebrate any shooter who shoots 100,000 shots,” says Thurman.
“They can contact Wilson about getting a replacement ball if the battery runs out after that milestone. That’s a lot of shots and we’d love to see the product used like that.”
For the best shot tracking results, the ideal hoop is an indoor or outdoor 10-foot regulation goal with a long, tight net and rigid backboard and rim. Less than regulation hoops will result in slightly lower shot tracking accuracy. Also, without a net the results will not be as accurate.
Wilson X Connected Basketball
Great players have always driven themselves to taking thousands of shots a day, but not everyone has that drive and focus. The ball can definitely help if you need that extra push, and have $200 to spend. It will certainly do more for your game than a pair of fancy shoes or expensive athletic wear.